Anyone who is attending college, has recently graduated, or may be enrolling in a university at some point in the future is well aware that the cost of getting a degree is an incredibly burdensome one these days. As private school increase tuition rates faster than inflation and as public universities pass state budget debts onto students, the expense associated with attending college only becomes more and more pronounced. However, at the same time, figures from the post-recession economy indicate that a college degree far from guarantees a job – but it is far better to have one than to not.
So students are faced with few options besides that of paying tuition, taking on debt, and leaving school with an expensive degree. Fortunately, there are approaches that can be taken to chip away at this burden as best as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Play the financial aid game – Most students receive some sort of financial aid, usually in the form of need-based grants provided by the school or the federal government. Applying for such need-based assistance requires providing family financial information such as investment accounts, business proprietorship, and past year taxes. Students can use several tricks to maximize the assessed need. These tricks include filing taxes independent from parents, refinancing a home instead of buying it outright, and showing documentation that siblings are currently enrolled in school.
Borrow from benevolent lenders when possible – Interest rates on student loans are pretty substantial these days, with many “subsidized” plans even charging rates in excess of 7%. A student can consequently drastically reduce his future debt burden by seeking out benevolent buyers who can offer a lower rate. These buyers could include parents, relatives, or friends in the community. Even someone who doesn’t have the money can – if they are truly convinced that you will repay – take out money against their retirement account at a rate of 1-2%. This loan can then be repaid in the 4-5% interest range, thus making for pretty solid investment.
Research schools’ loan forgiveness programs – Some colleges and universities offer loan forgiveness plans whereby a student is relieved of his debt burden after entering a certain industry or making a minimum payment for a certain number of years. These schools should perhaps receive some extra consideration in the decision process.
Open dedicated savings accounts – This approach is best taken years in advance of enrollment, when a future student (or a parent of a future student) can open a 529 plan dedicated towards college costs. But even if you are entering college and do not have such a plan in place, there are still high-interest, low-taxes savings accounts that can be specifically used towards collection and amassing your tuition expenses.
Lower cost of living expenses – The total cost of college is almost always higher than the cost of tuition, as students need also to pay their cost of living expenses. By living with parents, purchasing used and digital textbooks, cooking at home rather than eating on campus, and carrying your own health insurance, these expenses can be considerably reduced.
Seek out all possible scholarships – While many scholarships are highly competitive, there are scholarship opportunities available for every type of college student. There are scholarships for those of Filipino descent, for people with hazel eyes, and for people who attended a public high school in Boston. There are scholarships for golfers and for wall climbers. No matter your background, income, or intellect, there’s a good chance there’s a scholarship out there that is well-suited for you. At the very least it’s worth looking.
These are a few tips and approaches to keep in mind when preparing to pay for college. While these tips can’t turn your college costs from substantial to modest, every little bit undoubtedly helps when faced with the prospect of post-collegiate debt.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.